Now, it's on to the 5300's star attraction: its superior music player. Though a lot of cell phones have experimented with mobile music, few of them get it right, beyond the Sony Walkman phones. But the Nokia 5300 has everything we look for a in such a phone--there's stereo Bluetooth and a large selection of features, it's easy to transfer files to the phone, it's user-friendly with a simple interface and well-designed controls, it has few restrictions, it offers plenty of memory, and last, but certainly not least, it offers exceptional sound quality over stereo speakers. The player supports, MP3, AAC, AAC+, and WMA files.
As previously mentioned, the 5300 has large and tactile controls that give easy access to the media player. With a press of the exterior Play button, you can play your tunes; another press stops the player. While that method will open the player in a minimized form, you can access the full interface by going through the main menu. On that note, the player's design is minimalist, but it's still attractive and easy to use. It displays the track name and length, artist, and album name, while an icon mimicking the navigation toggle indicates how you can use it to control the player. Features include shuffle and repeat modes, stereo widening, an equalizer with five settings (two are customizable), an airplane mode, and the option of saving tracks as ring tones. And we're especially happy to report there's stereo Bluetooth as well. Please see below for an explanation of the player's performance.
The 5300 has an first-rate 1.3-megapixel camera that takes JPEG pictures in six resolutions: 1,280x1,024; 1,290x960; 800x600; 640x480; 320x240; and 160x120. You get a variety of camera settings including three quality modes, five color effects, a note mode, a 10-second self-timer, a sequence mode for shooting three photos in rapid succession, adjustable white balance, and an 8X zoom. The only thing missing is a brightness setting, but we're willing to overlook that omission. And as for camera sounds, you can turn them off but you can't choose a particular shutter tone. The aforementioned camera ergonomics and the slick camera interface make for a great user experience.
The camcorder shoots 3GPP videos in two resolutions (176x144 and 129x96) with sound. Other options are similar to the still camera, and you can mute the sound if you wish. The default mode lasts just 6 seconds, but you can also shoot longer clips, depending on the available memory. Image quality was pretty good for a 1.3-megapixel camera phone. Object outlines were distinct, but colors were somewhat faded. Video clips were fine--a bit grainy, as expected, but suitable for short clips. Besides saving photos to the phone, you can also send them via Bluetooth or a multimedia message or use the USB cable to transfer them to a computer for printing.
You can personalize the 5300 with a large variety of screensavers, wallpapers, themes, color styles, animations, and sounds. Gamers get Java (J2ME) support, but your choice of included titles will vary. We found Snake III, Pro Snowboard, and Music Guess on our test phone. The latter title asks you to match the tunes with the song on your playlist.
We tested the unlocked Nokia 5300 in San Francisco using T-Mobile's service. While that model is a quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) world phone, unfortunately the T-Mobile versions are only triband (GSM 850/1800/1900). We can't imagine why T-Mobile made the change but it's disappointing nonetheless. Call quality was quite admirable on the quadband, with excellent clarity and little distortion or interference from other devices. We felt the volume could be a bit higher; it was a little harder to understand conversations in noisier environments. Callers didn't report any significant problems, but voice-response systems had trouble understanding us unless we held the phone very close to our mouth. Speakerphone calls were fine, but voices were slightly more distorted on our end. We didn't have any issues with calls over a Bluetooth headset. Lastly, we had no problem getting a signal, and we were glad to see support for EDGE data networks.
Music quality was excellent and a step above most music phones. The stereo speakers put out sharp, clear sound with much more volume than voice calls. Sound quality diminished at the highest volume level, but we hardly consider that a sticking point. Music also sounded great over the included wired headphones, but the headset connection was a little loose. We liked, however, that Nokia chose a standard 2.5mm connection.
Getting music on the phone was a breeze with the included Nokia PC suite. We transferred 46MB of music in 3 minutes, 45 seconds, which is pretty fast when compared with the Motorola Razr V3i. The software, which you can use to sync your phone or to transfer a variety of file types, was easy to install and use, but with one tiny caveat: after transferring tracks, you'll have to update your music library in order to access the new tunes directly from the player.
The Nokia 5300 has a rated talk time of 3.2 hours and a promised standby time of 9.3 days. Our tests revealed a talk time of 3 hours and an MP3 playback time of 9 hours and 15 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests the Nokia 5300 has a digital SAR rating of 0.8 watts per kilogram.